Time for mobile health to grow up!

At the turn of the 20th century the pharmaceutical industry was an unregulated free-for-all. You could put any product on the market and make whatever claims you want. Products such as Egyptian oil claimed to cure everything from cancer to corns. There were anti-fat remedies to make women slimmer, cocaine tooth-drops for your tooth-ache and morphine for children teething. Fortunes were made from those who were desperately seeking a cure for their ailments, often with dangerous or at times completely ineffective drugs.

In 1906 the FDA stepped in and began regulating the products being put on the market and what claims were being made. The wild-west style attitude to drugs disappeared and the modern “pharma” industry we have today emerged.  Over the last 100 years the pharmaceutical industry (despite its faults) has flourished. Companies such as Pfizer employ over 120,000 people around the world.  It produces drugs that are for the most part safe and effective. It’s a big change from the madness of the turn of the 20th century.

We are now at similar turning point in history with medical mobile apps. A simple search of the appstore will show that there are apps on the market that claim to help fight depression and clear acne using your mobile phone! AcneApp on the Google play store uses blue light, which must be rested on the affected area for 2 minutes on a daily basis. It costs $1.99 and has been downloaded 11,600 times. Of course there is no medical literature to back up the claims it is making. There are also numerous other apps that offer natural cures from everything from shingles to insomnia all based on unproven techniques.

Even more frightening, there are apps available to be used by doctors when making clinical decisions.  These are apps that are used to calculate complex formulas that make life or death decisions and could have been built by some guy in his bedroom. Okay, the doctor stands between the app and the ultimate decisions, but doctors are human and they make mistakes just like everyone else.  They may not be able to double-check every calculation the app spouts out. A simple programming error could have irreversible repercussions.

Many of the most progressive hospitals in the world are now giving iPads as standard to all of their doctors. They are part of the furniture in Stanford, Johns Hopkins and the NHS East Kent Canterbury trust. These early adopters are paving the way for other hospitals. The software that sits on these (apps) are regularly being used to make clinical decisions. Numerous studies show that tablet devices and the apps that sit on them are greatly increasing efficiency in hospitals.   Apps are here to stay and their use is only going to grow.

However, we must ask the question, would you like an “app“ to be making a life or death decision about you or your loved one?

This mentality of anyone publishing an app that can do or claim to do anything has to end.  Doctors can’t be expected to spend hours sifting through the appstores looking for the most trustworthy app. They have nothing to guide them only a star rating and some screenshots. A third party needs to step in and take control of this space. Thankfully the regulators are beginning to take control of this space.

We here at Portable Medical Technology Ltd have decided to embrace this new era by developing mobile device software for clinicians.

The difference between us and traditional app developers is that we turn mobile devices into medical devices. We are producing software that can perform complex calculations for clinicians that can be relied upon. We strongly believe that any software used in a hospital to make a clinical decision must have been developed and maintained in a controlled environment and pass the rigours of FDA and CE approval, just like any normal medical device such as scalpel or pacemaker.

The day of untrustworthy, unapproved and unprofessional medical apps must end! We are embracing the new age of CE and FDA approved apps and ushering in the new era of the “medical device app”!

Portable Medical Technology develops CE/FDA approved smart phone apps for specialist medics. We are currently part of Healthbox Europe based in London. We will be launching ONCOassist,our first product in the coming weeks.

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